Sep 12, 2022 - Business

Uber, Lyft competitor offers a high-end experience

Driver holds door open to car that reads "Alto"

Photo: courtesy of Alto

I finally got around to trying out Alto, the Uber and Lyft rideshare competitor that launched in San Francisco in July.

Details: Alto aims to offer a high-end rideshare experience, its co-founder and CEO Will Coleman explained to Axios.

  • The startup has a fleet of midsize SUVs that are five-star crash rated.
  • Meanwhile, the app acts as a remote control to change music, set the lighting and indicate whether you're interested in chatting with your driver.
  • Each car has a plethora of chargers for a variety of phones and laptops.

Alto rides are more expensive than the cheapest rideshare options available, but less costly than the priciest, Coleman said.

  • It aims to offer its services at 30-50% less than an Uber Black or a black car.
  • The $12.95 monthly membership gets you a 30% discount on rides and access during peak periods like nights and weekends. But you don't have to be a member to use the service.

Of note: Alto's average wait times are about 11.5 minutes, much longer than what we've come to expect from other rideshare companies.

What they're saying: "But we do that on purpose," Coleman said. "Because we think that shorter wait times are really unsustainable for drivers and the companies."

  • Shorter wait times, Coleman said, create more congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • "If you can get an Uber or a car faster than you can get an ambulance, then something's really broken," he said.

The intrigue: Unlike Uber and Lyft drivers, Alto drivers are hourly, W-2 employees and receive health insurance from the company.

  • Alto also owns its fleet of vehicles, which means drivers don't have to worry about vehicle maintenance or gas costs.

My thought bubble: Alto undoubtedly provides a higher-end experience than Uber and Lyft. It's not, however, a luxury I need on any regular basis, but I can see the appeal.

  • The driver opened the door for me like you'd expect from a black car service.
  • It cost $37.13 to ride from Russian Hill to the Castro. It was pricey, but my soul did feel better knowing Alto's drivers are W-2 employees with benefits.

What's next: Alto, which also operates in cities like Dallas, Houston and Miami, eventually plans to expand into the East Bay and Marin County.

  • Over the next several years, Alto plans to transition its vehicles to electric.

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